Leveraging Culture to Build Trust inside the Organization


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Leveraging Culture to Build Trust inside the Organization

  1. 1. Volume 7, Issue 2, 2012 researchnotes Leveraging Culture to Build Trust inside the OrganizationWhy Trust Matters Further analysis of organizational trust reveals a numberThe high cost of mistrust is well captured and of core components. It is very important to look atdocumented in many sources. From academic journal each of the components because each holds uniquearticles to popular books, we find numerous case implications in an organization. These include specificexamples illustrating how a lack of trust has hurt beliefs related to benevolence, integrity, honesty, andorganizations in various ways. Research evidence openness. Each component contributes one framebacks up these findings, demonstrating that low of the total picture of trust within an organization, andlevels of trust in organizations can lead to employee each is essential of a strong foundation for trust todissatisfaction, deviant behaviors, ineffective teamwork, exist. By the same token, the foundation for trust canand poor performance. In contrast, high levels of trust in be damaged for different reasons, and it is thereforeorganizations have been linked with a range of positiveoutcomes, including employees who are more open, necessary to “deconstruct” trust components to fullyhonest and loyal; teams that operate seamlessly and understand why this is the case.drive high-performance workplaces; and organizationsthat are more resilient in tough times, less resistant to The Denison Organizational Trust Module (TM) waschange, and higher performing overall. developed to complement the Denison Organizational Culture Survey (DOCS) by providing specific,So, how can organizations build high levels of trust and measurable insights into the core components of trustavoid the pitfalls of mistrust? Where should they begin? in organizations. The TM includes 6 items that assessThis research note builds on our experience working employees’ perceptions of trust along each componentwith clients who have successfully leveraged culture to described above. Benevolence captures trust inbuild trust inside their organizations. Using research decision-making and intentions in the organization.conducted with the Denison tools, we uncovered a Integrity focuses on trust in lived-out actions thatnumber of key cultural linkages that provide a road map are consistent with stated intentions and principles.for successfully building trust in organizations. First, we Honesty reflects whether people can be trusted at theirdefine in detail what we mean by organizational trust word with accuracy and truth. Openness reflects trustand then introduce the Denison Organizational Trust that important information is not intentionally hiddenModule as a tool intended to measure levels of trust from employees. Insights from these components arewithin an organization along a number of interrelated triangulated against a single item reflecting employeecomponents. perceptions of overall trustworthiness. As with the DOCS, the TM is a fully validated, reliable instrument that produces benchmarked results relative to otherThe meaning and measurement of trust organizations (see Sidebar for additional details).in organizationsTrust is a belief that one can rely on or have confidencein someone or something beyond oneself (Robinson, The Organizational Trust Module:1996). In a workplace, trust is reflected in the Items and componentsrelationships that connect individuals to each other andto the groups they belong to. For example, one can trust • In this organization, decisions are made with[or not trust] a specific co-worker, co-workers in general, employees’ best interests in mind. (Benevolence)a specific boss, or the leadership of the organization. • People in this organization have good motivesRather than focusing on trust within specific and intentions. (Benevolence)relationships, organizational trust focuses on what is • This organization conducts business withperceived in general within an organization whether integrity. (Integrity)members believe that co-workers have positive • The people who work here are honest. (Honesty) • There are very few secrets in this organization.motives and intentions, that their best interests are (Openness)considered in the organization, and whether others • Employees consider this organization to becan be relied upon. trustworthy. (Overall trustworthiness) All content © copyright 2005-2012 Denison Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved. l www.denisonculture.com l Page 1
  2. 2. Although culture is positively linked to trust in general, The Organizational Trust Module as these results suggest, it is nevertheless possible for Benchmarks: A 30,000-ft view an organization to complete an assessment and find • Scores on the TM are compared to a normative DOCS and TM scores that are not aligned exactly. When database and converted to percentile scores the two scores do not seem to be as clearly linked as • The benchmark database consists of data from 161 one might expect (e.g., high DOCS score but low TM organizations that completed the TM between 2009 scores), it is important that the organization take a closer and 2012 look at the aspects of culture that serve as the strongest • 58,471 individuals completed the TM drivers of trust to identify where potential challenges may • 70% of organizations were headquartered in North America; however, respondents were widely dispersed exist. In other words, not all aspects of the culture will be across the world (e.g., 67% non North American equally important for building and maintaining trust in the respondents) organization. The results of our analysis help to identify three areas that warrant close attention. Interpreting Trust Module Scores • When TM scores are very high, trust is likely to be Looking at a more specific level, three culture indexes in strong throughout the organization and across facets particular demonstrated strong, positive linkages with of trust. trust: Empowerment (r = .83), Agreement (r = .80), and • Mid-range TM scores often reflect a mixture of Capability Development (r = .75). Hence, these results potential strengths and developmental needs. It is suggest some clear paths to building trust by using likely that there is uncertainty about some areas culture as a lever: of trust rather than a clear sense of mistrust in the organization. • Empower employees to own and be accountable • Low TM scores more clearly point to trust as an area of concern for the organization. It is likely that some for their day-to-day work; foster involvement by giving (or several) aspects of trust may be damaged and will employees a voice in business decisions. require special attention to be rebuilt over time. • Work on agreement as a way to build strong relationships; get people talking and working together through the issues that are most challenging and divisive.Leveraging culture to build trust in • Set a clear tone that the collective capability of peoplethe organization are valued as the most important asset of the business;Research indicates that the culture of an organization support personal and professional development throughplays an important role in setting the stage for a strong decisions and follow-through actions.foundation for trust. The values, norms, rituals, and habitsthat are built up over time both reinforce and reflect what is Figure 1. Link between DOCS index & Trust score:“in-bounds” and “out-of-bounds” in the organization – who Three strongest correlationsgives and receives trust? How is trust built, demonstrated,violated, and renewed? What does having trust enableindividuals, teams, and the organization to do? Theanswers to these questions are closely intertwined with theculture – the way we do things around here – and havekey implications for the way organizations function.Whether an organization is exploring its culture of trust,looking for ways to build on an already-strong foundation,or responding to a serious threat or damage, an importantfirst question is where to begin. What are the levers inthe culture that most directly influence levels of trust in anorganization?To discover where the culture-trust linkages are strongest, The strong relationship observed for Empowerment suggests thatwe conducted analyses using a sample of 57,188 trust is highest when information is widely shared and people areindividuals from 149 organizations who completed involved in decisions and business planning.both the DOCS and the TM. Across organizations, wecorrelated scores on the DOCS with scores on the TM. Agreement is also key, with the most trustworthy organizationsAll 12 culture indexes yielded strong (and statistically creating clear paths to bring people together on difficult issues.significant) positive relationships with trust. Overall, thisindicates that organizations with more effective cultures The third crucial factor is Capability Development. Trust is strongesthave, on average, higher levels of trust, and that all when the competence and development of people are focusedaspects of the culture play a contributing role. strengths of the culture. All content © copyright 2005-2012 Denison Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved. l www.denisonculture.com l Page 2
  3. 3. In addition to these clear levers for building a strong trust the TM. As each TM item provides insight into a uniquefoundation, what are some of the specific behavioral norms, aspect of organizational trust, it is important to look atvalues, and work practices that may need to change? This patterns across components as well as the overall TMis where a deeper dive using specific items in the DOCS score to understand the source of trust issues. Withcan add useful insights. this understanding of where and why trust may be damaged, organizations can identify more targeted areasTable 1 highlights the specific values and norms linked of intervention for each component of a strong trustmost strongly with the components of trust assessed by foundation—some ideas are outlined in the table.Table 1. Organizational culture and trust: Where they correlate most strongly Components of Cultural Values/Norms How Organizations a Strong Trust that Support Trust can Take Action Foundation (DOCS items) Benevolence • The leaders and managers • Leaders and managers need to be the first to /compassion practice what they preach. demonstrate trust and model the behaviors and expectations that they set for others. • Everyone believes that he or she can have a positive impact. • Encourage and praise employees for personal and professional success. Celebrate performance that is mutually beneficial for the individual and organization. Integrity • There is a clear and consistent • Employees trust leaders who are consistent and set of values that governs the dependable. Keep promises and fulfill commitments. way we do business. • Build the skills of employees through training, coaching • The capabilities of people are and stretch assignments. It is easier to trust someone viewed as an important source at work if you believe they have the skills and experience of competitive advantage. needed to do the job. Honesty • People work like they are part • Take risks together. People who take risks together of a team. form a bond that comes from being vulnerable together and working together to try something new. • When disagreements occur, we work hard to achieve “win- • Be open. When employees show others that they win” solutions. are open to new ideas and encourage others to share their opposing opinions, organizations not only create an environment of trust but also support a culture of innovation. Openness • There is widespread • Engage employees in the performance management agreement about goals. process at the individual, department, and organization level. • Information is widely shared so that everyone can get the • Share information and resources. Employees want to information he or she needs know what is going on. Leaders and mangers must make when it’s needed. an effort to keep them informed of any changes being made. Let them hear it from their managers first, and it will create a greater sense of loyalty and trust. All content © copyright 2005-2012 Denison Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved. l www.denisonculture.com l Page 3
  4. 4. ConclusionTrust is a complex and sensitive topic to deal with for many organizations. We believe building trust inside theorganization starts with leveraging organizational culture. Understanding specific norms, values, and work practicesthat may be facilitating or hampering trust will enable organizations to build capacity for trust and ultimately build ahigh performing and high trusting culture.ReferencesHurley, R. F. (2006). The decision to trust. Harvard Business Review, 84, 55-62.Galford, R., & Drapeau, A. S. (2003). The enemies of trust. Harvard Business Review, 81, 88-95.Saunders, M. N. K., Skinner, D., Dietz, G., Gillespie, N., & Lewicki, R. J. (2010). Organizational trust: A cultural perspective. Cambridge University Press: New York, NY.Schoorman, F., Mayer, R., Davis, J. H. (2007). An integrative model of organizational trust: Past, present, and future. Academy of Management Review, 32, 344-354.Contact Information Copyright InformationDenison Consulting, LLC Copyright 2005-2012 Denison Consulting, LLC121 West Washington, Suite 201 All Rights Reserved.Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104 Unauthorized reproduction, in any manner, is prohibited.Phone: (734) 302-4002 The Denison model, circumplex and survey are trademarks ofFax: (734) 302-4023 Denison Consulting, LLC.Email: research@denisonconsulting.com Version 7.2, August 2012 All content © copyright 2005-2012 Denison Consulting, LLC All rights reserved. l www.denisonculture.com l Page 4